Printable, Flexible and Hybrid Electronics Applications

A world of possibilities

Secure Printing

From passports to banknotes, lottery tickets and various means to control property access and secure physical assets, secure printing has been big industry for decades. It’s an ongoing war against counterfeiters and other perpetrators of fraud or theft.

Cost is a huge factor in this industry. Many printed products are themselves low cost commodity items. It simply isn’t feasible to employ conventional electronics as security measures due to the prohibitive cost of such solutions.

With flexible and hybrid electronics, security features can easily be produced and incorporated at a very low cost. New and improved security features are also possible. These include biometric signatures that use physical identifiers such as a fingerprint, and electronic track and trace, in which a user can use their mobile device to scan and verify the legitimacy of a printed product.

Healthcare

Flexible and hybrid electronics (FHE) processes are already used to manufacture the biosensors in the disposable glucose test strips used by diabetes patients. For medical applications, and overall health and wellness, this is only the beginning. With FHE, a whole new standard of low power, low cost, ultra-thin, flexible and even stretchable technology is possible.

Consider disposable sensors placed on, or even inside, a patient’s body, to provide physicians with real-time feedback during a procedure. Medical packaging can have smart labels that monitor temperature, humidity and even PH, and can raise an alert through OLED (organic light-emitting diode) lighting or wireless communication.

For remote healthcare and health and fitness, wearable technology is a hot industry. But what if that wristband or other device could be replaced with a single smart patch that resembles a band-aid and communicates data wirelessly in real-time? That patch could even be used to deliver medication as an alternative to being plugged into an IV drip. With FHE, biometric monitoring can also be incorporated into fabrics for smart athletic wear.

Aerospace/Defence

Today’s battlefield is high tech. Soldiers rely on mobile devices for real-time situational awareness. The command centre also wants to monitor the health of personnel in the field. The need is for electronic components, systems and displays that are lightweight, low power and rugged. Procurement budgets also demand low-cost solutions.

Flexible and hybrid electronics (FHE) serves all these needs.

With FHE, biometric monitoring and flexible solar cells can be built into smart materials – a shirt becomes a wearable sensor for vital signs, while a backpack can serve as a solar cell to provide power and recharge battery packs.

FHE also allows for flexible, even rollable touch displays that are far more robust and rugged than the typical rigid device with a glass screen. OLED (organic light-emitting diode), a key component of flexible and low-power displays, can be manufactured more rapidly and at lower cost with FHE, compared to traditional processes.

As materials and processes continue to evolve, the advantages of FHE will extend beyond the soldier in the field to the cockpit displays for military aircraft and other vehicles. Complex and costly electronics an wiring harnesses that are bulky and add weight to aircraft can be replaced with in-mould electronics and other lightweight FHE solutions.

Smart Retail and Intelligent Packaging

For Smart Retai, low-cost, low-power and even flexible touch displays give brands a whole new way to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Reward cards can become smart cards that store data and interact wirelessly when consumers walk into a store, for promotions and other features to personalize the shopping experience. Connected shelves track what sells and make inventory management much more efficient.

Intelligent Packaging solutions turn the humble box, bottle or blisterpack into a connected device that can monitor product freshness, protect from counterfeiting and theft, manage medication usage, and engage with the consumer after the point of sale to enrich the user experience and build brand loyalty.

For example, packaging can be printed with invisible touch-sensitive coding using conventional printers. This coding, which will activate the touchscreen of any mobile device, is far more versatile and less costly to produce than traditional RFID tags, more secure and dynamic than QR codes, and eco-friendly. It can be used as an added security measure, and as a tool for gamification, media and content publishing and branding.

 

Intelligent Buildings and Connected Homes

From a commercial property, hospital or school to a residential home, condo or rental apartment, flexible and hybrid electronics (FHE) can compliment or replace conventional electronics, and create whole new products and applications for the Internet of Things, to increase building efficiency and occupant comfort and safety.

For the connected home, FHE can enable the deployment of new networked technologies that deliver anytime access and control of appliances, lighting and heating, window coverings, irrigation, entertainment systems and more. Intelligence and active functionality can be added to everyday objects and surfaces at low cost. Bulky mechanical devices such as light switches can be replaced with smaller, lighter and more versatile alternatives.

These same innovations can be applied to the intelligent building in a commercial or institutional context, with sensors, analytics and systems to monitor and control HVAC, access, security, energy management and harvesting, lighting and emergency systems.

 

 

 

Wearables and Smart Garments

Wearables refer to any number of smart devices worn on the person or embedded into garments. They may incorporate a variety of printable, flexible or hybrid components and assemblies, as well as cloud-based software applications – such as to collect biometric data from the wearer and upload it to a fitness app on a smartphone.

Functionality can be embedded into the actual material by making it conductive to create smart garments. This can be done in various ways with conductive yarns. A substrate thread such as cotton, polyester, nylon, stainless steel or other high-performance fibre is coated or embedded with an electrically conductive element. There is also an interest in semiconducting textiles, made by impregnating normal textiles with carbon or metal-based powders.

The result is a new generation of wearable technology that harnesses the power of cloud computing through mobile device apps to helo individuals better manage their health, wellness and personal security, and give coaches, trainers and healthcare professionals a more immediate and personalized toolset with which to work with their clients, players and patients.

Automotive

Automakers are already looking at how they can reduce the weight of a vehicle and the cost of production, by replacing conventional electronics with flexible or hybrid electronics (FHE). Printed radio antennas embedded into windshields, OLED head and tail lights, and OLED infotainment touch displays are just a few examples of FHE solutions already found on production automobiles.

But the average vehicle has dozens of electrical systems and sub-systems that require bulky and costly wiring harnesses. This too is an area where FHE can drastically reduce vehicle production cost and weight by replacing these conventional electronics with in-mould electronics.

About Us

intelliFLEX, a not-for-profit industry alliance, is a vital partner for accelerating the growth of the printable, flexible and hybrid electronics sector of more than 300 organizations across Canada. Our technologies add intelligence and connect ordinary objects to enable the Internet of Everything.

We unite our growing global membership to build an effective ecosystem of supply chains for flexible, 3D printable electronics, 2D large area printable electronics, wearable electronics, smart textiles and hybrid electronics including related semiconductors, integrated circuits and software.

Our programs accelerate the adoption of these innovations for Smart Packaging and Retail, Intelligent Buildings and Connected Homes, Aerospace and Defence, Automotive and Industrial Applications, Health and Wellness, Intelligent Documents and Wearables.

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